Transcript of Interview on 6PR Mornings with Harvey Deegan

The Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt, was interviewed on 6PR Mornings with Harvey Deegan on 11 July 2017.

Page last updated: 11 July 2017

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11 July 2017

Harvey Deegan: Now, I’m delighted to say that joining me in our brand new studio is one of our federal ministers. He’s the member for Hasluck, of course, by the way. Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt. Minister, thank you for joining us on the program today.

Ken Wyatt: It’s a pleasure to be here, Harvey. I can't believe your new surrounds, compared to the old studio.

Harvey Deegan: Yeah, I'm liking that we’ve moved from the Sopwith Camel to the Airbus 380. I reckon it looks like that to us.

Ken Wyatt: So drinks are served?

Harvey Deegan: No, that’s the thing. You’re not allowed to have a drink in here. They get very, very precious about that. We got a few million dollars’ worth of equipment in here, Ken. But you’re okay if you want to have a quiet glass of water, no problem.

Ken Wyatt:Not a problem.

Harvey Deegan: Okay. Now, we’ve got a lot of things to talk about, and we do encourage our listeners to give you a call about anything to do with aged care – 92211882. The whole process has been streamlined, particularly when it comes to My Aged Care. Can you just give us an overview of what the Government’s doing, Minister?

Ken Wyatt: Well, there’s a couple of things. We’ve moved from aged care as such, to taking a focus on living longer, living better, and in that what we want is people to live at home longer, to have their independence, to enjoy determining their day for themselves. So if you want to get up a nine o’clock and have breakfast, you can. But the other side of it is when we become frail and we need residential aged care. Most of us don’t think about it, and our families don’t think about it, until it becomes a crisis point and then all of a sudden we think: mum’s got to be admitted to residential care, so what do we need to do? And My Aged Care portal allows people to access the information that they need.

But this is only two years old, it’s had a few teething problems, and so we’re now streamlining it to make it easier for people to access, but also for their health professionals, plus those who might have enduring power of attorney, or are responsible for looking after mum or dad, or even an older family member.

Harvey Deegan: Yeah, and I think the enduring power of attorney aspect is very important, isn’t it?

Ken Wyatt: It is, because most of us, if we are entering that stage of life when we’re frail and we end up with dementia, we’re not going to be fully cognisant of the decisions that we make. So we really do need something to protect us, and that enduring power of attorney gives a designated member or designated members the right to make decisions on behalf of the person they’re looking after.

Harvey Deegan: As I understand it, it was a fairly convoluted process in the past. How have you streamlined the enduring power of attorney provisions?

Ken Wyatt: Well, by looking at the structure of the call centres and having time issues resolved, because people were saying that they had long waiting times, accessing the computer system and then all of a sudden finding it was freezing or it was taking too long. Now, the department has been tremendous, they’ve been resolving these issues as people raise them. I’ve also called in at one of our call centres and had a look at the facility and talked to people working there, and talked about the way in which we want to make sure we give the right advice for the right reasons in the best way that we can.

Harvey Deegan: Health professionals – how do these new provisions impact on them? Is it, presumably, more user-friendly for them to operate too, I would have thought?

Ken Wyatt: It is, but the other issue, too, is when we transition from an old way of doing business into using technology, you get some pushback. And I know, in talking with some of the ACAT assessors, it was a new paradigm for them, but they’re now using the system effectively, and those in regional areas are also making sure that they access My Aged Care portal in order to give a better journey to an older Australian living in rural or remote Australia.

Harvey Deegan: Well, it’s all about continuity of care, isn’t it?

Ken Wyatt: It is, and that’s the important part, because we’re really talking about Australians now who are becoming fragile at around 83 – or, depending on where you are in the country, 89 – and then wanting to enter aged care. But, look, we’re living longer because our health is improving. Access to medications, the mobility that we now have, and the levels of support make us much more independent and more likely to want to remain at home.

Harvey Deegan: Prior to this, there were some very vulnerable consumers who were slipping through the cracks. How are you going to prevent this happening under the new scheme, I suppose, or the new reforms?

Ken Wyatt: Well, there’s a couple of things we’re doing. We’re doing an awareness for families. So we’ve started that process in GP clinics; we’ve got information on notice boards. We continue to raise the portal through government services, certainly through the health profession, and I talk at a number of forums and conferences across the nation in which I promote the portal as being the entry-point to having better access to aged care and residential care. And the sector itself is responding. You now see adverts from providers saying: we will provide the type of care that your mum or dad needs.

Harvey Deegan: The cost of setting this up, or reforming this system, has it been very costly?

Ken Wyatt: Look, every time you have changes it does cost Government, but you’ve got to weigh this up – the financial cost against the cost of quality of life, and giving people access to the types of services they need. And it far outweighs the cost of budget in the sense of making sure that we have a system that works, has a system that is flexible and easy to access by all family members.

Harvey Deegan: Dementia is a massive problem, Alzheimer’s is a massive problem in the community, we’ve got an ageing population; we know all of these things, so specifically, there’ll be a lot of people listening to us who will have a family member- in some form or other, I think Alzheimer’s has touched us all. My mum was a prime example. I think everybody listening out there, in one form or another, has been touched by Alzheimer’s. Specifically, how is this going to help an advanced Alzheimer’s sufferer, for example?

Ken Wyatt: There are a number of programs that we’ve got, but I’m going to Four Corners last night. That coverage of Alzheimer’s and focussing on the challenges of watching a loved one lose their short-term memory and then ultimately pass away is a challenging situation for anybody to be in. That husband-wife combination of where he, as a young man, entered that journey into Alzheimer’s, but she found it challenging. And so what we are trying to make sure is that all of the supports that we provide for people living with dementia – including carers, because we’ve got to consider carers – is important for governments to focus on.

And we’ve had three ministerial forums in which we’ve had something like 60 people living with dementia come to those forums, and I’m going to share with listeners one particular table I sat at. I delivered my speech, and I said to the department: I’m not leaving, I want to stay until I have sat at all of the tables. But the group were talking about people living with dementia, and I saw this lady sitting there very quiet, and then she looked up and said: can I say something? She said: do you all believe in people with a disability living in the community? And people were nodding their heads indicating yes. And she said: can I ask you to think in the same way? I lived with dementia, I want to live in my community, and I want the right to be there. Don’t talk about me as though I should be in residential care. She said: I want to be in my home with my family. And I think that’s an important turning point that we’ve got to seriously consider, and even though it’s challenging sometimes, we’ve got to be flexible at eventually making the decision to allow some independence, but equally to let the family make a decision to put somebody into care if they’re not coping.

Harvey Deegan: And on the question of aged care and we move onto nursing homes; I know you’ve had a few strong words to say about the situation in Australia with some nursing homes. What’s the latest on that?

Ken Wyatt: Actually, the nursing home sector – residential care – is great. My challenge at the moment is retirement villages, because retirement villages is another housing option for older Australians, and it’s affordable.

Harvey Deegan: More independence there too, isn’t there?

Ken Wyatt: There is the independence. You always live in a community of like-minded, like-aged people, and people I’ve met within retirement village enjoy the lifestyle. But the issue that Four Corners covered went to the high-end cost of fees, and my dilemma – and it’s a dilemma only insofar as states and territories have the legislation which cover retirement villages; it’s not a Commonwealth responsibility – but in seeing that program I had a discussion with the Prime Minister. It’s now been referred to the ACCC.

I have had discussions with a sector of the industry who’ve come to see me, and I notice that Queensland Government is now proposing legislation that will look at all of the issues raised in the Four Corners program. Because people still want the option of retirement villages, and I think they are a great option, but we also have to be fair-minded and treat people fairly in the management of those finances as well, and not have the exit fee levels that we saw in Four Corners.

Harvey Deegan: Minister, then are you saying that maybe this should be centralised in Canberra? That maybe the Federal Government should be looking after these matters and not the states and territories?

Ken Wyatt: No, look, within the Federation I have every faith in states and territories. We’ve got to have the discussion now based on a report that was produced 10 years ago. It was referred to a relevant minister of the day, and the level of activity around it didn’t take it enough down in through the processes where states and territories were participants within those discussions to bring about reform. So now there is an opportunity and Michael McCormack – my ministerial colleague and responsible for small business – has now referred the matter to senior officials at state and territory levels, so we’ll be having ongoing discussions on this matter.

Harvey Deegan: Excellent. Now, this is your chance – a golden opportunity – to tell the Minister about your experience. Simply ask Minister Ken Wyatt a question; he’ll be able to answer it for you, I’m sure. 92211882, and first up for you, Minister, is George.

Hi George.

[Unrelated items – Callers George and Pat]

Harvey Deegan: Lana, good morning to you.

Caller Lana: [Indistinct].

Harvey Deegan: Sorry? Hello? Lana? You there, Lana? I think we’re have a little bit of difficulty …

Caller Lana: … NDIS and …

Harvey Deegan: [Interrupts] Hang on, sorry, you’ll have to start again, Lana.

Caller Lana: Okay. This might be a bit complex, and Ken is in my electorate so I can speak to him later if he prefers.

Ken Wyatt: No, speak now.

Caller Lana: Why are you holding out on the people in the My Aged Care and the NDIS, that you don’t give them the same privileges? And the typical example is if I get dementia and I’m under 65, it will be a totally different issue than if I get dementia and over 65. There’s no contribution if I become part of the NDIS with dementia, and there is if I become aged care. That’s just one example, and a lot of others. And so if I get a disability before then, it’s fine; if I get it after, it’s too bad.

Ken Wyatt: No, you are correct, and it’s something that we’re working on at the moment, because I’m in ongoing discussions with both Minister Porter and with agency officials. Because there are a number of Australians that have raised this matter with me and I’m very keen to look at what solutions we can put in place to make sure that doesn’t occur, because I don’t want to see people falling through the cracks – certainly, I know the Turnbull Government doesn’t. So that’s an issue that I’m working on, but feel free to contact me at my electorate and we’ll have a further discussion as we progress things.

Harvey Deegan: Good on you, Lana, thank you. We’re – gee, look at the time – coming up to 23 minutes past nine, and Minister Ken Wyatt cannot stay here for that much longer, but he will stay here long enough to take a few more of your calls, but you need to dial now on 92211882.

[Unrelated items – advertisements]

Harvey Deegan: And in the studio with us – and we’re very lucky to have him – is the Honourable Ken Wyatt, Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health. And I know you’re sitting in here with your minder, Nick Way, and I know Nick will want to get you out of here and working hard in other areas, but are we allowed to keep you for a little bit longer?

Ken Wyatt: Yeah, no keep going.

Harvey Deegan: Good on you, beautiful. Let’s go to Kayleen.

Caller Kayleen: Hello. My query is, are you intending to change the staff ratios for aged care facilities? My mum, who turns 100 this week, is in a facility and we’ve experienced incidents there where there just isn’t enough staff, and when I’ve inquired about that, from the manager I was told most definitely that they have adequate staff, but our family doesn’t feel that.

Ken Wyatt: Kayleen, there’s a couple of things happening. There’s a senate inquiry into workforce and staffing within aged care, and they’ve tabled that report so I’ll be looking at that in detail. And secondly, I will be making an announcement in the near future on a workforce taskforce that will look at a range of issues for me in aged care, including that issue, plus the type of training that is needed, and, planning for the future, looking 20 years down the track to see what we will need in the way of people working with older Australians. My challenge is most aged care providers are small businesses and often the staffing is determined by them, but we’ll have those discussions arising out of those two pieces of work that I’ve mentioned.

Harvey Deegan: Thank you …

Caller Kayleen:[Interrupts] But, you see, I was in childcare for many years and there’s staff ratios relating to children, there’s staff ratios relating to schools, but there just doesn’t seem to be staff ratios related to aged care, and my mum’s returned from hospital without anyone to greet her. It’s us – her family – who get her to her room and settle her back in just because there’s no staff there.

Ken Wyatt: Kayleen, I’ll take your message on board because it is one of the things that has been raised with me as I’ve gone into different communities across Australia. I was in Queensland last week and I had a similar issue raised with me, so it’s on my mind.

Harvey Deegan: Good on you, Kayleen. Thank you. Rosa – hi, Rosa. Are you there, Rosa? We’ve got a bit of a sticky telephone line we’ve seen. Are you there, Rosa? Hello, Rosa? While we’re waiting for R- no, no luck change with Rosa.

What if we move to Lynn? We’ve got Rosa have we? Okay, Rosa, are you there now?

Caller Rosa: Yes. Yes, I am here. Thank you for taking my call.

Harvey Deegan: Righto, fire away.

Caller Rosa: Yes, my husband’s been suffering Alzheimer’s for many years, and he’s at the point now- or I’m at the point that because he can’t do many tasks – or hardly any task at all – my problem is getting someone to do gardening for us. I know there’s a lot of offers available – I’m not taking anything, you know, at the moment. Maybe that’s my decision. But the gardening, the HACC people came to access him and basically told me that it’s not a danger for my husband to get out in the garden, but he can’t do anything. So where can I get help like that?

Ken Wyatt: Rosa can you leave your number here at 6PR? And I will have somebody call you back.

Caller Rosa: Yes. Also, the other one, I tried to get this year for the first time to do pruning. I was instructed to ring Jim’s Mowing, which I did. He came to access it, he’s supposed to take the quote to seniors’ assistance South Metro region. I rang Gloria, who I’ve spoken to yesterday, and she said, oh, that funding for this year has been put on hold.

Ken Wyatt: Alright, that’s why I need your number so I can talk to you after and we can follow through.

Caller Rosa:Thank you.

Harvey Deegan: Good on you, Rosa. Thank you. We may only have time for one more call.

Lynn, you might be the lucky last.

Caller Lynn: Thank you. Good morning.

Harvey Deegan: Morning.

Ken Wyatt: Good morning, Lynn.

Caller Lynn: Just a question [audio skip]. I’m helping my elderly aunt who’s 93 at the moment get aged care into her home; she’s in transitional care and we’re waiting for her to go home. And we’re in a Catch 22 at the moment. So HACC and AHACC(*) – HACC is the gap fill before AHACC facilities are approved and come through – but they can’t implement anything until such time as she’s actually at home. She needs those services and, you know, she’s home for a time in which they can schedule people to come without any help. She’s got no family, she’s got no-one that can live with her or even visit her regularly to get help. So that’s my first question.

My second one is AHACC’s taking unbelievable time, and every time I speak to someone within the hospital service’s group – the OT, the social worker et cetera – they keep saying it’s just impossible to get those services through quickly. The other thing is, I’ve actually found she’s been wrongly assessed initially, so she needs to be reassessed. That’s even worse because then she goes back on the bottom of the list, and she’s been on the list since April now. So why is it taking so long for the processes to be completed, please? I’m going to hang up and I’ll listen to your answer.

Harvey Deegan: Thank you, Lynn

Ken Wyatt: Part of that’s a process that’s occurring. Normally if anybody’s in care – particularly with a hospital and hospital staff are involved – the ACAT assessment seem to be much quicker. WA’s had a good track record for ACAT assessment times – we’re close to the average. But in your case, if there are some other issues going on then please contact my Hasluck office, indicate that you’d spoke to me on radio this morning, and we’ll check that out for you and I’ll find out what we can do.

Harvey Deegan: [Indistinct] Lynn. Just before we do let you go, Minister, we were having a chat in the break before about the value of older Australians. Sometimes when we do move into our senior years – and I’m an authority on that, believe me – we tend to perhaps- there’s a chance we might be cast aside for the young ones. Is that a reality in this country?

Ken Wyatt: Well, we’re seeing it when people think that retirement is a golden opportunity to go and play two weeks of golf- play golf two days a week …

Harvey Deegan: I wish.

Ken Wyatt: … and go sailing, et cetera. But when they find after 12 months- the number of people I’ve heard say to me I wish I hadn’t retired. And I came to a view that what we should maybe think about is either a gap year from work, so when you’re hitting 60 and you’re thinking of retiring, don’t retire; ask for 12 months leave without pay, go and do all the things that you wanted to do, and then at the end of 12 months come back and then say to your employer, I’d like to continue. Because often when people leave and they then suddenly realise that they’ve got another 30 years of living to do and fill their time with and they want work, they can’t get it. So a lot will also take the option of volunteering. But I’d just like to see us change our mindset about age being a barrier. We should just think of living to 100 and live life on that basis. I’m going to reach 100-105; now, I’ll become frail at some stage and will go into aged care, but I think we should take a different view now to our living years and enjoy them.

Harvey Deegan: Just wondering though, if you take a gap year at aged 60 and you do sort of knock on your employer- or leave without pay and you knock on your employer’s door, they might say, well, we’re kind of okay now, we’ve got someone else in the job, and enjoy retirement.

Ken Wyatt: No, see, our challenge is the number of baby boomers coming through in the next 20 years is going to be significant. Our replacement population doesn’t match the retirement population. So at some stage, employers in this country are going to have to rethink the level of skill mix that they will need within their workplace, particularly if they’re expanding. And if we look to other countries and say the solution is migration, that also is a challenge because some of the biggest countries in the Western world have now gone under the population replacement line – they’re going to face the same challenges. So if I was a country near us I’d be looking at talented Australians and employing them.

Harvey Deegan: There are some- I know a particular lady who works for a delivery organisation – they pick up food for people who are either too busy or can’t be bothered to go and get their own food – and she was telling me that their policy with this particular firm is to only employ over 50s. That’s a step in the right direction.

Ken Wyatt: It is. And look, I think we should- see, I had a baker who said to me he couldn’t get an apprentice. I said, well, why don’t you think of a 64-year-old who still wants to work, can’t get a job back in the mining sector, and he said that’s not a bad idea. I’ve got some pool companies that have now taken on men over 60. So the opportunity’s there.

Harvey Deegan: Yeah, certainly is. Minister, I know you have to go and it’s been a great privilege to have you in the studio discussing a variety of subjects today, and I’m sure that everyone that spoke to you is happy and you’ll be following up on a few. You’ve got a bit of homework to do, I must say.

Ken Wyatt: We have, and so has Nick, so he’ll be pleased.

Harvey Deegan: [Laughs] Nick’s used to homework. I’ve known Nick for many, many years – he’s a good hard worker.

Minister, thank you very much.

Ken Wyatt: Thank you very much, Harvey.

ENDS

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